Back to School Without Back-Breaking Debt

Graduation cap

Going back to school would be a dream—except for that part where you get your first student loan bill and wake up screaming.

Unfortunately, “non-traditional” students (late twenties and up) graduate with 15% more debt. Use these tips to get that degree as cheaply as possible.

  • Grab the free money. Only first-timers qualify for federal grants like the Pell. Pursuing a second or third degree? Now’s the time to go crazy on grant and scholarship applications (skip any with application fees). Check out FastWeb and FinAid.

  • Schedule face time. After filing your financial aid form (a.k.a. the FAFSA), request a “professional judgment review” from your school so you can explain that the income on last year’s tax return won’t be available when you’re in school again.

  • Go public. PayScale’s College ROI Reportmakes it clear that cheaper public universities perform as well as (or better than) private schools when it comes to post-grad payoff.

Last, remember this rule of thumb: don’t take out more money than you expect to make in your first year after graduation.

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